Thursday, July 22, 2010

"The Clear Thing To Do"

It has been raining in our corner of Adair County.  T-storms have rumbled uneasily through the hills and hollers, bringing sudden gusts of wind-blown rain to pummel the ground and spatter from the leaves of trees and bushes.  I picked green beans yesterday afternoon, driven inside twice by showers, then deciding to get on with it, staying outside to snap the beans from the damp plants while rain drizzled down my back.
It rained softly in the night, and a gentle mizzle was still falling when the cats and I trouped down the hall from bedroom to kitchen about 7 a.m. this morning.

I served the felines their breakfast treat, slid back the dining area door and sniffed. The damp, warm scent of grass and garden--with a faint tinge of horse--mingled with the aroma of brewing coffee.  

A few moments later I sat comfortably, cherishing the coffee and the silence. A light fog swirled and hovered  above the creek bed across the road. Beyond, at the edge of the woods, two deer grazed, softly blurred shapes in a misty green landscape.

Rain slanted down fitfully, wrung from a heavy sky, and I recalled a day, perhaps 15 years ago, spent with J. exploring the old Fortress of Louisbourg perched above the sea on the east coast of Cape Breton.

Giant clumps of angelica leaned against stone walls, rubbed against fences.
Showers of rain puddled the gravel lanes of the restored village and rain dripped coldly down our up-turned collars as we ducked in and out of the restored buildings.
The gardens drew me.  Tucked behind high paling fences, vegetables and herbs such as might have been favored in the 1750's grew in tidy rectangles, separated by paths of packed earth.  Here and there a few flowers bloomed, softening the grim stone buildings. The little gardens weren't a favored attraction for the families shepherding youngsters around the village, so I had their quiet enclosed spaces nearly to myself.

When we left an hour or so later, our feet squelched in our shoes, our jackets were unpleasantly damp.
It was past lunch time and we drove through the rain to the nearest sizeable town--Sydney perhaps--and bolstered ourselves with a good hot meal  in an expansive hotel dinning room, where we watched rain stream down the windows as we ate.

The afternoon passed in following winding roads measured in kilometers. Accustomed to thinking in terms of miles, we would find ourselves suddenly entering a little town in less time than seemed possible upon reading the posted distances.
Late in the afternoon we began looking for a place to spend the night and came upon several housekeeping cottages perched above the river in a hamlet whose name I have forgotten.
J. went into the small store that served as office for the cottage owners, paid the fee and was handed a key.

It was a delightful log cottage, comprised of a living area furnished with a deep sofa and squashy chairs, a tiny kitchenette, bedroom and bath.
We brought in our bags, rummaged out dry socks and shirts, toweled our hair.
Inspecting the kitchen, I found a shiny aluminum kettle, mugs, spoons.
A cup of tea suddenly became a longed for necessity.

Trudging across the road, I entered the store and trolled up and down the aisles.
I picked up a box of tea bags, another of sugar packets, some molasses cookies.
When I put my selections on the polished wooden counter, the sandy haired woman asked if we were suited with the cottage.
I replied that we were delighted with the tiny house, but a day of touring Fort Louisbourg in the rain had left me with icey feet and I was feeling the need of hot tea.
The woman pushed her spectacles up her nose and regarded me for a moment with her head cocked to one side.
Then she smiled and said appreciatively, "Hot tea!  Isn't that just the clear thing to do!"
Briskly whisking my selection of tea and sugar aside, she ducked and pawed under the counter.
In the softly burred speech of the Maritimes, she assured me there was no need for me to buy tea.
Swifty she tucked teabags and sugar packets into a small paper sack and handed them over, with the promise that if these weren't enough to see me through our stay, she had plenty more stashed under the counter.

For all the charm of the log cottage, the bed was a small one, the sort that used to be known as a 3/4 size. We spent much of the night trying to arrange our legs and arms and pillows in such a way as to give each other room to relax.  At about daylight J. gave up the battle, dressed and went out to the living area.  I heard the cabin door close and his footsteps thudding across the wooden porch.
Thinking I might have a few moments to catch up on sleep, I rolled happily into the middle of the bed.
Almost immediately, J returned and flung open the bedroom door.
"Get up, " he ordered.  "There are otters playing on the river bank and we can watch them from the bridge."
I blundered from bed, hauled on jeans and a sweater, thrust my feet into shoes and followed him, unwashed and uncombed out into the cool grey morning.
The otters obliged us for a few moments by frolicking in and out of the water, then they left to do whatever otters do. It was only 6 a.m.
"What do we do now?" I queried a bit crossly. [Early mornings are not my forte.]

"Lets walk up that dirt road and see where it goes."
J. strode briskly up the hill, while I scuffed along behind. 
A small white building loomed out of the mist, a structure that at one time had clearly been a rural crossroads school.  As we approached, the windows suddenly shown with warm yellow light.
A sign on the wooden door announced that this was the "Old Schoolhouse Cafe."
It wasn't quite opening time, but our hungry wistful appearance gained us entrance.

We were settled at a table and presented with a steaming pot of tea and the cheerful assurance that porridge  was in the works and a great pan of "bannocks" had just gone into the oven.
We sat there, a bit bleary from a restless night, hair wild from the damp, hands tucked around the warmth of mugs. Within moments the bannocks appeared, with butter and honey, bowls of oatmeal were set before us to be garnished with brown sugar and cream.  On the wall an old clock ticked.
Clearly, we were in the right place at the right time and "the clear thing to do" was to cherish these hours.

The link below is the best that I could find for information and a few photos of Fort Louisbourg.
Wikipedia provides an article as well.


  1. What a lovely memory. Definitely one to be taken out and dusted regularly. Of such times are true happiness made . . .

  2. I loved this journey on the backroads with you. You write so well. I'm having a hard time keeping up with all my blogging friends, so forgive the lack of replies.

  3. What a perfect expression it.

    I really enjoyed your accounts ...past and present really take us with you on your journey.... I always feel I have been where you have. Thanks xx

  4. Oh my goodness, what a lovely story for this gray, windy morning. It was a true delight, and your ending just right. "Clearly, we were in the right place at the right time and "the clear thing to do" was to cherish these hours."

    Every day there are moments to cherish, but we can so easily get caught up in the cares and woes we don't see 'the clear thing to do'.

    Have a great weekend ~ FlowerLady

  5. Great story, I envy your memory, my seems worse each day. Isn't it interesting how something like rain can trigger a memory.
    By the way, send us some of your rain we haven't had any in nearly 2 weeks.